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Simple ways to turn a funeral into a celebration of life

Posted on 15 October 2014

When we lose someone we care for, the funeral is an important part of the healing process. It’s there to help us come to terms with our loss and provides a fitting environment in which to remember and pay tribute. With such an important part to play, it’s no wonder the person planning the funeral feels pressure to do right by the person who’s gone.

Historically funeral services have tended to follow a relatively set structure, sometimes with only minimal mention of the person’s life, which may leave mourners feeling a little disconnected. But things are changing. Funerals are becoming more personal, celebrating the person, the life they lived and the connections they made.

If you’d like to make a loved one’s funeral much more a celebration of their life, here’s some suggestions to inspire you.

Celebrate fond memories

Celebrating a life is about remembering the uniqueness of the person who’s died. There are lots ways to do this. Here are some of our favourites:

A memory board

Collect photos, memorabilia or handwritten notes and display them on a board. Let guests know they’re free to add to it if they wish.

A memory table

Place a few items that represent the person on a table in the entrance of the funeral venue. For example, if you’re planning for a keen traveller you could use a map, their passport, a postcard they sent - even their faithful walking boots.

A memory book

Create a small photo album with collections of memories, then leave a few spare pages for guests to add their own messages on the day.

Celebrate with food

What better way to celebrate a life than by enjoying that person’s favourite food or drink? From fish and chips to ice cream, cream teas to cosmopolitans, there’s plenty of ways to make catering options really personal. If you’re planning for a talented baker, you could make their favourite biscuits or cake. You could even print the recipe for guests to take away.

Celebrate with music

Did your loved one adore rock and roll? Were they an opera fan, or did they dance the salsa? Celebrate their loves by adding some music to the day. Select favourite tracks to play at the service or give guests some lyrics and get them to sing along.

Involve your guests

Celebrations are about getting people together, so get your guests involved. It can help with the grieving process and give loved ones the chance to feel connected to the person they’ve lost.

Here are some suggestions:

A balloon release

Give guests a balloon, asking them to whisper a message or make a wish as you release them together.

Lanterns

Say a final goodbye at the end of the day; light paper lanterns and release them into the night sky.

Memory tree

Instead of the usual guest book, provide luggage labels and a beautiful tree. Guests can write a memory on the label and attach it to the tree. You can plant the tree and keep the messages as a reminder of your loved one.

These are just a few ideas for you. The options are almost endless and really depend on the person you want to celebrate.

If you know the person and their passions, don’t be afraid to share them. Your guests will enjoy remembering them fondly, and we all know that a smile can be good therapy.

Have you ever thought about what your own funeral might be like? If you’d like your loved ones to celebrate your life when the time comes, a funeral plan could help them to do so. You can also read our funeral planning guide to find out all you need to know about making funeral plans.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.